Linden Jay is One of Erick the Architect’s Favorite Producers

The collaborator’s catch up about the making of I’ve Never Been Here Before.

Linden Jay is a London-based producer and songwriter, and a member of the band FARR; Erick the Architect is a Brooklyn-based artist who performs as a member of Flatbush Zombies and solo. Linden produced Erick’s debut solo record, I’ve Never Been Here Before — out today on Architect Recording Company — and to celebrate, the collaborators/friends got on a Zoom call to catch up about it. 
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Linden Jay: What’s up bro? 

Erick the Architect: You know the vibe. I spoke to you about 30 minutes ago. [Laughs.]

Linden: So, we’ve got 40 minutes to just talk to each other about something. I did my research, put some pointers together. Did my homework. The first thing I think we should talk about is how we first met, and how we started working together.

Erick: So the day one was: me and my close friend always sent music to each other. He’s probably one of the only people where if they send me something, I actually click and listen to it — [usually] I’ll lie and just be like, “Fire,” just so they can stop sending me. 

Linden: [Laughs.]

Erick: “Oh, this is sick, man. This shit is fire,” but I didn’t even listen to it. But he sent me “Someway Somehow,” but it was the version of you guys performing in the street, so I didn’t even know the MP3 version. I never went to Spotify or nothing, I just played that video all the time. It was so dope because I was like, Woah, he’s playing an instrument for real. I relate to shit like that, where it’s just raw emotion. I was like, Wow, this is rare. [Eventually,] I listened to the MP3 version and I was like, You know what? I like this version better than MP3 version

Linden: There are, like, a thousand vocals on it.

Erick: Yo, yeah. It was something about the rawness of the other one that I liked. That’s what really started it. I was like, I wonder if the guy in this band makes all these beats. So when I looked at the credits, it said your name, and I was like, Oh, shit, so Linden is the producer and Roméo is the singer. That’s dope. This is like a real band. I DMed you, right?

Linden: I think you posted the song on your story, and then I hit you back being like, “Yo, hell yeah! Flatbush Zombies!” [Laughs.] You were like, “I’m in Paris playing with Zombies,” and I was like, “Sick, we should connect, do some shit.” And you were like, “Oh, I could actually come to London tomorrow…”

Erick: It was your birthday.

Linden: Yeah, it was my birthday. And we just linked up and you came to the studio. We did one day of hanging and then COVID happened. So we didn’t see each other again until LA, but that was when we made the first project, Future Proof.

Erick: It’s funny, because we’d already met each other in person — and sometimes I do think about this, just because me and you are such good friends — you could be a collaborator with any person, like, “Yo, they have dope music,” but if you don’t have friendship… I don’t think we could have done what we did without meeting again in person. Future Proof is so great, but I think it also came from us knowing each other in real life. Even that time when I came out [to London,] I think it would have turned out to be a different project.

Linden: Definitely.

Erick: Also, once I saw how you work, I was like, Oh, I don’t gotta worry about this. Because I produce, too, so I was like, “Damn, if you take this as seriously, or more seriously, than me, then you can produce everything. You can do whatever you want.” [Laughs.] You’re going to pick the best take. You’re not going to just settle or try to melodyne everything or be mad lazy. You’re going to push me and be like, “Yo, you sure you wanna do that?” Or, “You wanna do another take?” Or, “Hey, try this, if it doesn’t work, then let’s not use it.” Usually I would want to be part of all that, but I would say doing that project was the first time I fully let it go. 

Linden: Sick. Moving forward to the album: How many songs did you make for the album that didn’t get used, that you were even considering?

Erick: Over 30 or 40 songs. It was so many. I remember when Rome came to my house, he was like, “Damn, this is actually harder than I thought.” Because I couldn’t make the decision on my own initially, because I had so many that were like, “Oh, I’m gonna use this for the deluxe,” or whatever. And the more times I kept doing that, I just kept making more music, and then you would send me some shit even when we were finishing it. When “Shook Up” came, I thought I was done.

Linden: It was at the end, yeah. And “I Am” was, like, four tracks glued together.

Erick: Yeah, exactly.

Linden: So you saved yourself four tracks by doing that.

Erick: Yeah. That would have been a long album, four more songs on it. I have a question for you: You play multiple instruments, but if you could keep the ability to only play one, which instrument would you pick?

Linden: That’s the only one I’m allowed to play forever?

Erick: Mhm.

Linden: Oh, that’s horrible. I mean, drums is my first love. Drums was more than music for me — that gave me meaning in life when I was a teenager. Everyone would go out and play football on their lunch break, and I found purpose for being a human being on planet Earth by playing drums on my own. So I honestly think I couldn’t survive without it. But saying that, I probably play drums the least out of all instruments at the moment.

Erick: [Laughs.] 

Linden: I did it at college, I was at Berklee doing drums and that was my whole life. But [playing] drums on your own sucks. It’s like the worst instrument to just be on your own and play, because you can’t play a song. So as a producer, I end up sometimes playing live drums, but often program it. But without keys and guitar and bass you can’t make music. It kind of gets boring playing drums on your own at some point. So I guess I’d probably say keys. It’s the most dynamic, versatile instrument, because I could just pull up a guitar sound on the keys and pull it off, or I could play 808s, or I could play piano.

Erick: So, I have another question. This one is in accordance to that question. I feel like I could do a lot of different things with my voice, but when I hear, like, Donny Hathaway — I know that I physically can’t do that. And it’s discouraging, but it’s also inspiring. If you were a vocalist, what person’s voice would you [want to have]? Any vocalist, any singer. It could be a female vocalist, too.

Linden: Lydia [Kitto]. She is so good. She’s on the project, and she’s across the whole FARR EP that’s coming out. We make tons of stuff together. But it’s funny you say that, because I used to sing back at school. I used to be quite confident as a singer, but since I became a producer and I work with crazy gifted vocalists, over the years I’ve sang less and less. I’ve always thought like, What the hell? Why am I so insecure about singing? So I was like, Fuck it, I’m going to get a singing lesson. So I did it. I went probably like a month ago — I’ve been on tour since, so I haven’t been able to go back — but it was so amazing. It was quite deep, because, it made me realize that my voice is more than just the singing and getting confident with your singing voice — being a singer actually helps you express yourself as a person. Because your voice is what you use to communicate. So after the lesson, I felt like my voice was so warmed up and I had more confidence in my voice that even just the way I was talking and communicating, my voice was stronger. So I feel like for non-musical reasons, I’m going to do singing lessons as well, just for growing confidence. Because, yeah, it’s good for music, but everyone has a voice — whether it’s musical or not, your voice is still your personality. A tangent, but…

Erick: No, that was the answer. I was hoping you would give me some crazy shit like that.

Linden: Yeah. Because even in sessions, when I’m writing with singers, I’m always singing little melody ideas. When it comes out, I’ll hit the notes, but it doesn’t sound like how I want it to sound. I can write melodies, but to connect the dots between the idea and the sound, and actually express the way you hear it in your head, that takes work and dedication. And sure, there’s technique and stuff, but most of it is just down to self-belief and confidence, I think. Because some of the best singers ever have never been told or thought about their voices, they just sing. It’s more than just musical. Your voice is so much your personality.

Erick: I always thought it was interesting, too, that people can sing without an accent. They’re from London, but then they sing and you don’t hear the accent anymore. 

Linden: I think it’s all in the “a”s. 

Erick: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs.] 

Linden: It’s weird how the American accent is just how singing is meant to sound to the average person. Like, Adele sings American, but when she speaks, she’s the most fucking British person you’ve ever heard in your life. But you don’t listen to her and think, Oh, she sounds American, because that’s just pop music. It’s just American sounding.

Erick: What about Amy [Winehouse]?

Linden: Amy sang in a British accent, for sure. She said, “There’s nuffing you cah-n teach me.” [Laughs.] When you hear a British artist singing in an American accent, you don’t think, Oh, that’s weird, it sounds American. But when it’s British, then you really notice it.

Erick: Growing up, I remember listening to Tinie Tempah and Skepta, and people would be like “Bro, why are you playing these people with these weird voices?” I’m like, “You ever heard of the Beatles, bro?”

Linden: They sang in an American accent!

Erick: Yeah. 

Linden: That honestly might be one reason why British rappers just never cut through. I mean, there’s a handful of guys that are starting to, but on a huge level — they’re just like, “What is this accent?” [Laughs.] Alright, so I got a question for you: What was the toughest part of making the album?

Erick: Finishing it. [Laughs.] 

Linden: I feel like you were on the finish line for, like, six months.

Erick: You know what it was? I think I was already satisfied with my album, but I was trying to convince myself that I could do better. Not that I was displeased with what I had, but I wouldn’t have made “Leukemia” if I didn’t… I think when you guys came over here, that really was like, Damn. I was talking a lot about relationships and shit, and it really sparked [something]. You know, I’ve made many albums, but this was the first time I did it alone, so it was hard for me to take criticism from anybody that wasn’t part of the album. I didn’t want to play it for anybody that didn’t work on it. For a while, I just was like, “Why does it matter what you think? You didn’t help make it.” I want to at least love it, and then I could take any criticism, whether it’s positive or negative. 

Linden: I remember there was one point where you were like, “I just can’t play it to anyone. I don’t want any opinions.”

Erick: Yeah, if you’re not working on it, I don’t really want to hear anything.

Linden: Yeah, there’s, like, five people who you can ask for an opinion, but everyone else can just shut the fuck up.

Erick: Fuck off, yeah. I remember even with the design, people were like, “You’re gonna use black and white?” I’m like, “Yes. They don’t make Cadillacs in lime green, bro. They don’t make Escalades in fucking bubblegum pink.” I was going for something that was more adult. I’m not 20 anymore. 

Before this is over, I will say on the record that since I’ve met you, you’ve always been as talented as you are now, and you’ve always been a good friend and a good person. Anybody reading this: This is a one-of-one kind of producer. They don’t make people like him.

Linden: Thank you very much. When you called me the other week and you were like, “I’ve been thinking, you might be my favorite producer!” I was like, What? [Laughs.] 

Erick: Real shit.

Linden: But yeah, we’re going to continue moving forward, making tons more stuff, switching up the styles, doing more projects. Who knows what’s to come, but it’s going to be good shit.

Erick the Architect is a celebrated artist and sought-after collaborator. As a founding member and primary producer of Flatbush Zombies, he has amassed over 900M streams across all platforms, Billboard 200 debuts and played some of the world’s most prestigious festivals. His debut record, I’ve Never Been Here Before, is out now.